Ex-officer convicted of killing Mapleton elk dodges prison, gets probation

BOULDER, Colo. — Sam Carter, the former Boulder police officer who was convicted of killing an elk, was sentenced Friday by a Boulder County judge to four years of probation, community service and fined, avoiding the one year of prison time that prosecutors sought.

Carter, 37, was found guilty on June 3 of nine charges related to shooting and killing a trophy elk in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood of Boulder. He will also have to pay $10,200 in fees because of the wildlife convictions.

He was found guilty of attempting to influence a public official, one count of forgery and two counts of tampering with evidence — all felonies. He was also convicted on first-degree official misconduct, illegal possession of a trophy elk with a Samson Law surcharge, conspiracy to commit illegal possession of wildlife, unlawful taking of a big game animal out of season and unlawful use of an electronic communication device to unlawfully take wildlife.

Carter also received a fine of more than $12,000, 30 days on a work crew and 200 hours of community service.

Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett asked Boulder District Judge Patrick Butler in a sentencing memorandum filed this week that Carter be sentenced to one year in prison followed by three years of probation and perform 100 hours of community service, noting Carter’s “arrogant” and “flippant” attitude toward his conviction.

RELATED: Sentencing memorandum

“Carter’s behavior while on duty as a uniformed police officer was reprehensible and he should be sentenced to the Department of Corrections as recommended by the probation department,” Garnett wrote in the memorandum.

At the sentencing hearing, Garnett said prosecutors could have sought a harsher sentence of up to six years in the Department of Corrections, but said one year is “fair and tough” and “sends the right message.”

Carter’s attorney, Carrie Slinkyard, said she was disappointed at the recommendation of jail time, saying it was “extreme” and asked the court to look at other options, including intensive supervised probation.

Slinkyard also said sending Carter to prison would not only punish him but also his sons, and that Carter’s well-being could be in jeopardy because he is an ex-officer.

Carter, who had free on a $20,000 personal recognizance bond, read a letter saying he takes “full responsibility” and “I live with this incident every day.”

“I’m haunted by this incident every minute of every day,” he said. “I want to apologize to the citizens of Boulder.”

In issuing the sentence, Judge Butler said, “There’s no other way to say it, the shooting was reckless, thoughtless and dangerous to the public at large.” Butler also noted Carter’s past history as a police officer and being a “productive member of sentence.”

“Prison sentence not meaningful but would be symbolic,” Butler said.

Afterward, Garnett said the sentence was “reasonable,” and Carter attorney Marc Colin added it was “well thought out and well reasoned.”

Investigators said Carter and fellow officer Brent Curnow killed the elk in January 2013 with little regard for the safety of others in the area. Cellphone records also suggest the two former officers had been plotting to kill the elk for more than a week.

Prosecutors said Carter shot the elk, known as “Big Boy,” on Mapleton Hill while he was on duty. The officer initially told police he shot the elk because he noticed it was hurt, but a necropsy revealed no evidence of a previous injury.

Slinkyard, said Carter put down the animal because it was aggressive.

Curnow received a 60-day home detention sentence for his role in the elk’s killing.